Dreaming of an Empty Inbox + Other OCD Things

There is nothing worse than a cluttered inbox.

Ok, maybe getting shot at. Or the love of your life breaking your heart. Or a paper cut. Paper cuts are literally the worst. Especially if you get a paper cut and then you prepare some food with, say, a lemon. Lemon + paper cut = pretty awful. I digress.

As a professor who teaches at 4-5 writing classes per semester, a clean, empty inbox is treasured, a many splendored thing. When I am able to clear everything out, I feel like Gollum at the end of The Return of the King

because for a split second, for one single fleeting moment, I experience true happiness, true ecstacy. Everything is wonderful, my heart is snuggled by a dozen labradoodle puppies.

And then I get another email. And another email. And another email. And I drown in a pit of fiery despair.

When I teach, my philosophy is simple: WRITE. Writing is a process of discovery; discovery of self, discovery of new ideas, new avenues, new philosphies. It’s an exploration of voice and interest. So if my students want to send me multiple drafts of an essay before submitting what I call the “Polished” (I hate the word ‘final,’ because, as a writer, I know nothing is truly ever finished or final) draft, then BY ALL MEANS. Which basically means I have to look at multiple drafts. But I don’t mind. In fact, I encourage it. That’s an important part of who I am as a teacher. I find that the best results yield from support and encouragement and practice, practice, PRACTICE.

So basically, I bring it on myself.

Lately, it’s been been really time-consuming because it’s finals season, which means an influx of constant emails. I receive at least ten emails per day from students asking me to review and critique their 10+ page papers. Then I’ll receive at least ten other emails from students asking questions about assignments, essays………..

And then the occasional email from LivingSocial telling me about the most FANTASTIC deals on vacations that seems SO inexpensive (WHAT? $150 FOR A TRIP TO CANCUN!?!?! OMFG), but really, when you read the fine print, you realize it’s only for one night, in a room the size of an womb, and OH WAIT, AIRFARE IS NOT INCLUDED. Ok, easy enough. Answer my students, delete the LivingSocial deals before I start to cry, and move on with my life.

Delete 10 emails, 20 new ones pop up.


But it’ll all be ok. That’s what I tell myself. I’ll go take a walk, have a sandwich, do things to relieve … stress.

But on my way to do those other things, I discover more pet peeves and idiosyncrasies to focus on.

I walk by the line of books on my dresser and if they are not all in a straight line, I literally freak-the fuck out! have to drop everything I’m doing to align them. Sometimes this means I have to take everything off of the top of the dresser (the books, bookends, indian dream box, Steve’s cologne, my Donald Duck bobble head, the stained glass lamp my mom made me) in order to properly reorganize. That makes me think about my DVD collection. See, half of them are organized alphabetically, and the other half are split between Disney DVDs/BluRay’s and those coupled together through favoritism. So of course I have to sit down and assess the collection: Is this movie still a favorite? Obviously Mean Girls has to stay. Now I have to make room for The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Wreck-It Ralph. CRAP THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

Next thing I know, it’s 11pm, and I’m exhausted, but the pillows on the couch are not fluffed properly and situated JUST SO, so I before I do that, I have to make sure they’re parallel to the couch cushions. Once that’s done, the bed’s a mess because Steve got up too late to make it and I NEVER make the bed UNTIL RIGHT BEFORE I GO TO BED. Nothing is better than a freshly made bed to crawl in to. So I have to make the bed.

Once I crawl in, the Law & Order ringtone goes off, signaling that I have a new email. Two new emails.

Instead of reading then, I resign to wake up extra early to figure out a plan-of-attack. When I’m able drift off to sleep, I’m most definitely dreaming of that elusive empty inbox.


  1. This basically sounds like the inside of my head. Except that if my inbox is empty I start to panic because if I don’t have 150 million things happening in my life, I feel lost and useless.


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